How to Start a Petition
Starting a petition can be a powerful way to make your voice heard and gather support for the changes you want to see. Petitions help groups of people share their concerns, stand up for what’s right, and make important changes happen. Online petition sites like Change.org make it easy to collect signatures on anything from local matters to global issues. But you may be wondering how Change.org works. Everyday people like you start petitions on issues they care about. So whether you are a community activist or a concerned citizen seeking big policy changes, you can use a petition to turn a passionate plea into a forceful instrument of change. Writing an effective petition that gets attention, gets people to sign, and convinces leaders to listen takes a bit of know-how. To craft a top petition, start by reading our step-by-step guide to creating your own petition.
In this Guide:
Focus on the issue
What change do you want to advocate for? What matters most to you? You can start a petition on just about anything – from social and political issues, policy changes and environmental concerns to your favorite tv show or your neighborhood homeowner’s association.
Do your research. Research the topic and relevant facts. You want to present accurate information in your petition. Consider who is involved. If there are organizations or companies at the heart of your petition, learn who is in charge of them. If your issue is already in the news or part of an ongoing process, find out what organizations, individuals and other groups might be interested in your petition goal. Look for community groups, professional organizations, or advocacy groups that might share your interests and can share in the work behind the petition.
Who can make the decision on your petition? Examples include an official, an influencer, or a business person. It is more effective to target an individual that you can hold accountable than an organization.
Consider timeliness and scope. When is the best time to act? Are there deadlines for action, previous scheduled meetings, or seasonal considerations to take into account? Is it a global, national, regional, or local issue? What’s the best way to get your petition out to the relevant audience who could sign it?
Set your petition goals. What do you want to get from your petition? Petitions with a clear request are more effective than those with a vague statement of the problem without a solution. Consider SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound in developing the action you are requesting. If people can understand the steps to accomplish your goal, they are more likely to sign and support your petition.
Create a petition
Change.org makes it easy to build support for your change. Follow the steps below to draw up your petition.
Start with an attention-grabbing headline. Make sure it lets people know what your petition is supporting. Readers will want to know what your specific goal is and not just the problem you’re looking to solve when they think about signing your petition. Focus on the solution you want in the title and make it easy for readers to know whether they agree with your change.
Clear and concise headlines attract more attention than vague or very long titles. Start with an action verb such as “stop, save, ban, grant, oppose, add, start” to make your goal clear. Include important names and any key dates. Use emotion and urgency to encourage people to sign now.
Write about the change you want to see. If there is a personal reason you want this change, tell your story. Storytelling is key to making others feel emotion and the real impact of the change you want to make. The best petitions strike a personal note with readers – it’s more effective to use a personal story and persuasive tone to get readers to sign it, and to support you in your quest for change.
Make sure you include the background and critical information in the body of your petition – who is impacted, what the problem is, and the action you want to see taken. Emphasize why now is the time to make this happen. Let your signers know when there is an important deadline or upcoming meeting. If you can find statistics that support your cause, include them – but don’t go overboard on presenting every piece of data. Most people will relate better to a personal story than a bunch of numbers.
Include a call to action. What do you want people to do? Often it is signing the petition, but it can include additional steps like contacting their elected officials, or posting the petition to social media.
Choose a striking image. People will first see the image and headline of your petition. Make sure it gets their attention and can stand out in a sea of other images, especially if you plan to build support on social media. Here are some guidelines on images that lead to the most signatures.
- Keep it simple. A single image performs better than a mash-up of many images.
- Look for color and contrast. You want something eye-catching, but not overwhelming to the eye. Look for something with color contrast and simple lines.
- Use emotion. Close-ups of people and pets that convey emotion work well.
- Avoid text. Though it may seem counterintuitive, don’t put your headline or other text in your image. Images without text consistently out-perform those with text in them.
Use an image you are allowed to distribute, either one you created or a stock image with a Creative Commons license that allows for reuse. Try searching Google Images, Wikimedia Commons, or a site like Pixabay that offers images for reuse. Images that are at least 1600 x 900 pixels look the best on any screen.
Collect signatures. Signatures act as public pressure to get the decision maker to listen to your petition. With enough support, you can’t be ignored. Ask family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to sign your petition. Post your online petition on social media. Consider using groups with a similar interest, like your neighborhood facebook group or a professional organization. You can use local methods like bulletin boards, newspaper, or radio stations to find people who care about this issue too.
Get media attention. Petitions work by focusing public interest on your issue. You can build up your signer base by getting media attention through a press release or interviews with journalists. Get the word out on your petition and tell your story to engage new signers and the people who can make your goal happen.
Engage the decision maker
After you’ve built support for your request, engage the decision maker. Use escalation tactics such as a letter-writing campaign or a social media takeover to get their attention on your petition. You can even organize a petition delivery event to bring your petition to them face-to-face.
Keep up the pressure
Change can take time! Be persistent with decision makers. Our team of campaigners can help with ideas to keep attention on your campaign, and develop new ways to engage more signers. Take advantage of related topics that may come up in the news to bring your campaign back into the public spotlight.